A solicitor has been jailed for stealing almost £1million from his firm and its clients to fund what the judge called an "almost obsessive interest in horses and horse-racing".
From March 2006 to July 2015 Graham Keys, a partner at Belfast firm Diamond Herron, siphoned off £856,714.89 from the firm's client account and £83,931.01 from its company account. He attempted to cover his tracks by creating false documents and data entries.
Keys used the stolen money towards the purchase, breeding and training of horses which gave him "access to a social life which might otherwise not have been accessible to him", the prosecution told the Belfast Crown court.
The lawyer was rumbled in August 2015 when police spotted suspicious bank activity and alerted Diamond Herron, which sounds like a race horse but isn't, and it launched an investigation which culminated in firing Keys.
The other four partners at the firm each stumped up £50,000 of their own cash to plug the hole in the accounts and maintain client confidence. At trial, the judge said there was no prospect that Keys could repay the partners as he had been made bankrupt.
"And he's off."
Keys accepted "unequivocally" that he was responsible for "creating havoc with his own firm". He admitted 21 charges consisting of fraud, false accounting and theft. The judge said Keys was a "highly gifted and capable solicitor" who had used "camouflage and concealment" over a long period.
Key was sentenced to two years in three months in prison.
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The firm did not respond to a request for comment on its ex-partner's foal play (a foal is a baby horse (Keys was obsessed with horses (see above))). He is not the first lawyer to become embroiled in an equine scandal.